Teagan Gutka, a junior on the women's volleyball team from North Pole, Alaska, has been selected the SCAC Character & Community Female Student-Athlete of the Week for the week beginning February 3.
The SCAC Character & Community award honors the efforts of student-athletes who excel in the field of athletics, and also serve their campus and community.
Teagan Gutka has a motto. And if we all lived by it, the world would definitely be a better place.
"You can have a fun time with anyone," says Gutka, a junior on the Johnson & Wales University volleyball team who also runs cross country and track for the Wildcats. "You don't have to be picky about who you include in anything you do."
With that kind of attitude, it's no surprise that Teagan knows a lot of people in the JWU Denver community. But she doesn't just know a lot of people. She has a knack for bringing different groups of people together.
Teagan and her teammate on the volleyball team, senior Brooke Paxton, call it 'bridging the gap.'
"She is phenomenal at asking anyone and everyone to be involved in something to make it as successful as possible," Paxton said. "It helps that she's involved in so many things, because then she has these relationships with people, so she can be like, 'Hey, this is what I'm doing. Come be involved in it.'
"She's just the kind of person that gets people excited about joining into what she's doing because they know it's going to be done well and they know that she wouldn't be asking if it wasn't something she wouldn't be willing to do herself."
Teagan is able to bridge a lot of different gaps in part because she's so heavily involved around campus.
She began her career at JWU as a member of the volleyball team as a freshman but has since joined the track team and even ran some cross country this past fall. She's also the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, a tutor in the Center for Academic Support and is close with many in the culinary community.
As the vice president of SAAC, Teagan helped organize one of the university's most successful community service projects this past November when JWU student-athletes came together to build a "Wall of Love" in downtown Denver.
As soon as she moved to Denver, Teagan couldn't help but notice the prevalence of homelessness in the area. She always wondered how she could make a difference – until one day she saw a post on Pinterest about the Walls of Love initiative.
Teagan found her answer.
Founded in Cleveland, Ohio by Holly Jackson, Walls of Love is a donation-based temporary "wall" of winter gear essentials and hygiene products aimed specifically at helping those in need. Collecting donations around campus and during home athletic events, JWU SAAC was able to build a wall of 1,200 items at Lawson Park in downtown Denver on Nov. 16.
Making the event even more special was the fact that Jackson flew out from Cleveland to help out.
"These kids are phenomenal," Jackson said. "They're spending their day off on Saturday, or their time after practice, just hanging out with me. I think it's great, and I think everyone at the college should be extremely proud of them."
Teagan's service involvement continued in January when she joined a large contingent of fellow JWU student-athletes for the university's annual MLK Day of Service. Teagan's group was tasked with helping Special Olympics Colorado spread the word about the 2020 Polar Plunge series.
Her work with Special Olympics was just getting started, however, as once again this year JWU will host a Unified Basketball game on Feb. 11. Teagan has taken charge in organizing the event, which will coincide with the Wildcats' 'Change for the Better' weekend a few days later. Just like last year, JWU has chosen Special Olympics as its 'Change for the Better' beneficiary.
By winning the August NCAA Division III Special Olympics Spotlight Poll, JWU has the fortune of going all out for this year's Unified game.
"We're partnering with the JWU Community Service Network. We're getting t-shirts, we're getting rally towels. We're putting a lot more work into it," Gutka said. "We have the ability to do a lot more, so I'm really excited."